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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Americas | Central Valley
The Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba
The Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba was in Fresno on Thursday. Photo below - From left to right: Gerry Bill, Woody, Sandino Gomez, Yesenia Molina and Leni Villa Gomez Reeves. Photo by Simone Whalen-Rhodes
The Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba is traveling through California. On Thursday, they were in Fresno for an event sponsored by the Center for Nonviolence, where they picked up three more passengers and material aid for Cuba. This route is one of 12 in the US and Canada where they will give presentations in 130 cities.
Sandino Gomez is from Santa Cruz and has been to Cuba with the Pastors for Peace on two previous trips. He is going again and as the spokesperson for this leg of the caravan, he wants everyone to know that this is about solidarity, not charity. Gomez said “our project carries humanitarian aid to the island nation not as an act of charity at all. In fact our project is designed as an act of solidarity with the Cuban cause. Our purpose is to break the US embargo and the travel ban and the licensing requirements in order that we can draw attention to the fact that they need to be changed. This is a failed policy, this is an immoral policy, it’s inhumane, it causes innocent people to suffer and we are sick of it.”
Leni Reeves, a physician from Auberry, which is in the Sierra mountains near Fresno, joined the Pastors for Peace caravan as an act of Civil Disobedience. She is outraged about the blockade and that the US government interferes with her ability to travel to Cuba. Reeves said that her participation in the caravan is “a conscious act of civil disobedience and the laws that we are trying to challenge are the blockade of Cuba which I think is profoundly wrong, of course the travel ban on US citizens going to Cuba which is entirely in place by our government. People often ask me ‘is it legal’ and what they mean is does the Cuban Government let you in? Yup, the Cuban government lets anyone travel in Cuba. Yeah, it is our government. . .and why, what is it we are not supposed to see?”
Joining Reeves on the trip to Cuba is retired Fresno City College professor Gerry Bill who is also upset about the travel ban. Bill says he will be traveling throughout the US encouraging people to join the caravan so they can see Cuba for themselves. He also wants to end some of the misconceptions he says many people have about Cuba. Bill said “I want people to know that Cuba isn’t what they think it is. I would like to encourage more people to go and see it for themselves. You know, it is not a police state with a cop on every corner, or anything like that. They don’t have a high standard of living but also they don’t have poverty like you see as we pass through Mexico as we go to Cuba or even the poverty like you see on the streets of Fresno. So, you don’t see the homeless people in Cuba, everybody basically has a place to live. They have clothes. They have education.”
Sandino Gomez connected the Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba with the struggle for universal health care, jobs, and ending poverty in this country. “The Cuban revolution is about ending poverty It is about uplifting people out of poverty through education, through healthcare, through job opportunities. People here should care about what is happening there because truthfully, if the Cubans can do it, we can do it. If the Cubans, with very little money can provide free health care and education to their people, why can’t the richest nation in the world provide free education and healthcare to its people, Sandino said.
The 22nd annual Pastors for Peace caravan, which is traveling through California this week on its way to Cuba, will cross the US/Mexico border in McAllen, TX on July 17th. From there It will travel to Tampico Mexico where the buses will be loaded on a cargo ship and the caravan participants will fly to Cuba. For more information, see: http://www.ifconews.org/node/948